Biden administration reverses Trump’s ban on rainbow flags at embassies

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The rainbow Pride flag Photo: Shutterstock

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told American embassies and diplomatic missions that they can fly the Pride flag again as well as “other symbols connoting support for LGBTQ rights based on what is ‘appropriate in light of local conditions.'”

It’s a reversal of the Trump administration’s ban on embassies flying the rainbow flag that even resulted in former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to force the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea to take down its Pride flag.

Related: The White House states they “certainly can” consider challenging anti-trans laws

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Foreign Policy reports that the rule change is in a confidential cable sent from Washington to chief of missions (or head diplomats) at outposts around the globe.

The cable is a “blanket” authorization giving all outposts permission to display pro-LGBTQ insignia on or before May 17, when the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is observed.

The authorization is not an order, but provides permission in advance. It’s required for any U.S. embassy to receive permission from State Department officials before flying a flag other than the United States flag or the POW/MIA flags, or foreign service flags where required.

“Posts should support efforts to repeal [criminalization] legislation, while ensuring that ‘do no harm’ remains our overarching principle so U.S. efforts do not inadvertently result in backlash or further marginalization of the LGBTQI+ community,” the cable read.

The State Department did not confirm or deny the contents of the cable, but said in a statement that “Chiefs of Mission are the president’s direct representatives overseas. The Department supports their prerogative to manage mission operations to maximize their effectiveness in that role, within the confines of U.S. law and regulation.”

This follows through on a pledge Blinken made during his confirmation hearings before the Senate, right before President Joe Biden (D) was inaugurated.

Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January that he would enact policies that will allow American embassies to support and protect LGBTQ rights around the world by flying the rainbow flag.

He also pledged to re-appoint a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, a position that exiting President Donald Trump failed to fill. An appointment has not been announced yet.

Blinken also said he would reject the findings of the Trump administration’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, which was staffed by anti-LGBTQ advocates, and concluded that “newly manufactured human rights” such as LGBTQ rights were not worth protecting. He did so in March.

Blinken expressed his belief that the Special Envoy position is “a matter, I think, of some real urgency.” He also highlighted that violence against LGBTQ people, but especially trans people and women of color, has increased recently and needs to be addressed.

“We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase,” Blinken told the committee, a committee on which he used to work on as the Democratic Party’s staff director.

“We’ve seen, I believe, the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of color, that we’ve seen ever… and so I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the Department is going to take on and take on immediately.”

Blinken committed to “building a diplomatic corps that fully represents America in all its talent and diversity.”

In February, after President Biden issued a presidential memorandum declaring the administration’s intent to protect LGBTQ rights worldwide, Blinken reaffirmed his commitment and pledged that his department will give “swift U.S. responses to human rights violations and abuses of LGBTQI+ persons.”

He took over the country’s diplomatic relations from Pompeo, who refused to protect LGBTQ rights within the department.

Pompeo denied embassy requests to fly Pride flags, even for Pride month. He is now a contributor to Fox News.

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